on youth

From what they have described, my parents’ adolescent lives were very different from my own. In many ways, their young-adult years embodied things that I always craved: the romantic style of the ‘80s, the dreamy pride exemplified by the Reagan Era, the rise of John Hughes. My parents were central to the spirit of North Jersey. They spent summers in Seaside Heights before “Jersey Shore.” They rummaged through pockets in the coat closet for dimes before sneaking off for bagels during Passover. They shared a Walkman on the bus ride home.

These were my mom and dad’s ordinary experiences, and that fact in itself leaves me unsatisfied with the progression of my own adolescence.

I would trade my cell phone plan for a party line, my Kindle for a record collection, my sock drawer for a single pair of leg warmers, simply because I cannot. With one semester of high school remaining, the things I have not done stand out more starkly in my mind than the things I accomplished or experienced. I think I am missing something that my parents grew up with. As a result, I am nostalgic for memories that are not even mine.

I am stuck in the ways of the most perplexing generation yet, a generation whose emotions and actions are embodied by Instagram posts and Facebook statuses and iPhone Emojis. My generation is characterized by teen-idols announcing their retirements at an age fit for a college sophomore. Right now, I am finding myself unsatisfied with this dynamic.

Maybe my parents must feel the same way, longing for an alternate era to play host to their memories. Maybe they were as disgruntled with their adolescence as I am with mine, or maybe they still are. After all, the gloried romance of youth wore off like a perm; my parents eventually straightened out just as their hair did. My mom wanted to pursue art, but was forced into bookkeeping. My dad fell in love with photography, and simultaneously fell into an internship on Capitol Hill. They got real jobs. They got married. They got unhappy.

That is the point, I guess. My childhood was good. I grew up with opportunities — advancements in technology and growing equality for women. It was all very exciting and very generic, but sadly, uninspiring.

Great authors like Augusten Burroughs and David Rakoff have written about their upbringing, achievements and failures with great poignancy. They told stories in brilliant ways, but the stories in themselves were brilliant as well.

I do not know if my privileged-but-slightly-bland adolescence held many tales worth retelling, or rewriting at that. This is not the fault of my parents or sister or teachers or presidents, but probably the fault of my constant search for those experiences. I tried too hard.

My parents did not need to. Their teenage years were rife with the incidents I long for, and they were not even looking. My mom’s story of flying on a smoke-filled Boeing 747 to Israel every summer is priceless. My dad’s story of his first Grateful Dead concert is one for the ages. I just do not have anecdotes like that yet. Or maybe I do, and I will not realize it until later. For now, I am going to have to figure out how to write something worth reading or simply do something worth writing about. That will be a story in itself. After all, my teenage years are not over quite yet.

By Cory Lomberg